Words of Advice for the Indigenous Young Revolutionary Attending University

As an indigenous young person, to purposely and unapologetically disobey colonialism is an act of revolution. It is an undertaking that is wrapped in resurgence and it carries a deep love for those who prayed for your existence generations ago.

So here is a reminder to the indigenous young people who are first year students in colonial academia or to those who are returning to colonial academia – it is imperative for you to unapologetically disobey colonialism. It is necessary to fearlessly confront and resist any and all forms of oppression of your peoples in colonial systems. And it absolutely vital that you defend who you are and where you come from, for eternity.

Also, here is some advice. Take what you need, leave what you don’t. You are your own expert. But also remember, colonialism and colonial systems are leading to our demise. Resist. Reject. Revolutionize. So that our future generations will have a chance to know what it’s feels like to fall in love with indigenous ways of living.

– Use your voice as often, and as loudly, as necessary. 

– But don’t feel obligated to be the “volunteer professor” in the classroom whenever a topic involving indigenous peoples come up.

– Know that your success does not derive solely from colonial systems. You can still call yourself successful if you fail a class but can go home and hunt a moose. 

– Also, going home does NOT make you a failure. Sometimes colonial systems just don’t fit us. And that’s ok.

– There will be instances where you will battle racism, cultural appropriation, prejudice, and discrimination from classmates, professors, and even the Human Rights boards at the universities you attend. And in some instances you will “lose” your case. Remember this: you may have “lost” your case in the colonial academic system, but in the context of indigenous systems- you are a defender and advocate to all of the indigenous students who are silent in the face of racism, cultural appropriation, prejudice, and discrimination.

– There will also be instances where being an indigenous woman in the city will be a reason for you always have your guard up in order to stay alive. Go somewhere where you can let your guard down and simply be “you” every once in a while. Let your body rest. It will be necessary.

– Alcohol and parties may seem like the thing to do and place to be. But do your best to remind yourself of how many generations of your people have become poisoned by it, how many children suffer because of it, and how many times you may have suffered in your life because of it. It is not worth it. 

– Misogyny and patriarchy (ie: men thinking they’re better than women, women being seen as “nothing,) are very real ways of thinking, specifically in colonial academia. When experiencing it, do not succumb to victimhood. Instead, do your best to safely call-out this way of thinking (keyword: SAFELY,) and know that you cannot overthrow a way of thinking, but you can flourish in systems of indigeneity and personal self-power. An example of this would be dropping a class because the professor consistently puts down women, filing a human rights complaint, and while waiting, join a self-defence course or a course in your mother-tongue. And watching that professor get fired. (That never happens but an indigenous girl can dream.)

– Call your mother, kokum, father, or moshum. Often. Their voices will bring you home when you need it the most.

– Do the homework. Only if it feels right. If the topic of that paper goes against your values and morales as an indigenous person- say something. Fight it. And do not allow anyone to justify something that goes against your beliefs. Trust your gut. Always.

– Drink water, get your sleep, eat healthy, and exercise. It helps.

– Find wild meat when you can. Learn how to cook your favourite recipe with it from back home. It’ll mean so much to you when you are homesick.

– You, as a young indigenous person, can make a stand against being indoctrinated to the colonial systems. You can put an end to our people accepting abusive behaviours in colonial systems as “natural” (ie: being followed in stores, getting harassed by police, and young indigenous women feeling unsafe on city streets). And you can do so by intelligently misbehaving against colonialism.

– If you hear the phrase “education is the new buffalo,” do not believe it. Saying education is the new buffalo is like saying oil companies are the new buffalo. In reality, colonial systems and something colonialism created to further colonize our peoples (ie: academia) will never be the “new buffalo.” Why? Because colonialism massacred and attempted genocide against the buffalo. And colonialism is attempting to do the same to he indigenous mind in colonial classrooms. Truthfully, it will be indigenous systems that will create the “new” buffalo. In fact, let’s repopulate the buffalo and have the buffalo be the “new buffalo.” Education is not the new buffalo because colonialism is not the route to our livelihood as indigenous peoples.

– Do not give into academia’s and the colonial system’s definition of who you are as an indigenous person. Only you have the right to define who you are and where you come from. No one else.

– If that settler “friend,” or “ally” is over-stepping boundaries, thinks that they can be a “rescuer” to all the indigenous peoples, or are outright trying to be Indian, you don’t need to be their friend. Call them out. Tell them how it is. Cut them off even. They are on these lands because of your people. They exist because of your people. Plain and simple.

– You don’t have to allow that white boy or white girl to touch your hair just because you think they’re cute. 

– You don’t have to allow them to hug you because you think they’re cute. Or kiss you. Or have sex with you. Say no. Or say yes if you want it. But be safe. Practice your sovereignty in all kinds of ways. 

– Anxiety is real. And it can happen while becoming a part of colonial systems. Seek help and know that home can help. And also know that colonial-based counselling sometimes does not help. Neither does their medicine. Find indigenous based solutions. Emotional based solutions. Love based solutions.

– Most professors see themselves as superior to, better than, and smarter than their students. Primarily because of the child-adult dynamic infused in colonialism. Do not fall for this dynamic. Again remember, they exist here because your people allowed them to live on your lands, they exist here because your people fed them on your lands when they were on the brink of starvation. They are not more superior, better than, or smarter than you. You are everything.

– Colonialism in classrooms may attempt to shame you. For having children, for being brown, for being indigenous. You may even notice that white professor forks out “C” grades to all the indigenous students in their “indigenous studies” class. Fight it. And again remember- this does not mean you are unsuccessful. All it means is colonialism is attempting to make you see yourself as unsuccessful. Don’t allow it to. Because when you are home, or simply existing as an indigenous person, that is an extraordinary act of resistance.

– Your teachings are not something to be embarrassed about. And you are not obligated to share them with anyone who asks. Keep them as sacred as the ceremonies you learned them in.

– Make friends who are also nehiyaw, anishinaabe etc. One is bound to have a kokum who will invite you for supper on the days when you only have one dollar in your bank account- they won’t shame you out for it AND you’ll most likely leave with containers of food.

– You can still reach your goals, even if you fail that English class three times. But you won’t need that information from that class in the long run, as much as they would like you to believe.

– Frybread is not traditional food. Neither is spam. Or poutine at the powwow. Enjoy it, but do your best to find a balance.

– Remember that following indigenous systems for a successful future is not an “alternative” option, nor is it an unlikely means to a positive outcome. It is revolutionary, and necessary, in order for our people to survive. Do your best to prioritize this success over colonial success.

– You do not need to obey colonialism, colonial systems, or the colonizer in order to advance in life. Colonially misbehave and defy the colonizer daily. But also keep in mind of outcomes. Weigh out which outcomes you are willing to meet when you disobey the fundamentals of colonialism. 

– Colonialism and academia are not always correct. You have every right to disagree and argue against both, whenever you want.

– When being followed in stores, if and when you can, film the person following you. Do not allow them to “make” you feel threatened, no one has the power to make you feel anything. Call them out and have a safety plan if things escalate. You have a right to shop in stores without being stereotyped and followed.

– Remember that a certificate, diploma, degree, or doctorate does not make you who you are. It is something to be proud of, something to celebrate, a victory even. However, also remember that colonialism has trained us to believe that their way is the only way to reach success. It’s not the only way. Living with Indigenous systems is a route to success. Living with the land, nourishing your family, and healing the community is a route to success. 

– Ultimately being proud of who you are and where you come from as an Indigenous person, is an example of life-long success. 

And lastly, to the indigenous young people attending colonial academia: you are the most feared weapon against colonialism. When you disobey colonial systems, you disobey assimilation and generations of attempts of genocide. When you disobey and do not accept colonialism, you disobey and do not accept forced relocation, violence against indigenous women and the lands, indigenous communities without safe drinking water, shelter, and/or the ability to practice food sovereignty, corruption, patriarchy, misogyny, lateral violence, nepotism, and every other symptom of colonization within our people.

To the indigenous young people attending colonial academia: do not give up in the face of colonialism and remember, colonialism will never have the power to define who you are and where you come from, and that in itself makes you the most powerful, and successful, peoples on these lands.

Be revolutionary. Stand liberated. And never apologize in the face of colonialism.

To the Iskwesis/Young Ones with Brown Skin:

A reminder to all the kwezens/iskwesis and young ones with brown skin,

You no longer need to be on the brink of critical mental health crisis due to the struggle and battle against colonial systems and oppression.

You no longer need to be in deep pits of anxiety attacks, exhaustion and depression due to the constant battle against misogynistic morales and indigenous men and women fighting them like the colonizer themselves.

You no longer need to get exhausted, angry, and even physically sick for attempting to fight and dismantle patriarchy, colonialism, misogyny, oppression, and injustice.

You no longer need to walk through hallways with clenched fists and gritted teeth, preparing yourselves to battle colonialism as you weave your way through school, medical systems, and your non-indigenous job sites.

You no longer need to drive yourselves to points of anxiety, depression, and sometimes even suicide as you attempt to be social-justice warriors and freedom from oppression fighters in systems that breed everything you are fighting against.

You are medicine for your families, communities, and nations for you are our future mothers, aunties, kokums, matriarchs, and you are medicine as whoever you define yourself to be, in a time where practicing the expression of your self-identity is critical in the resistance against colonialism and misogyny.

Never forget iskwesis/kwezens:

You carry identical self and inner power as those did generations before you.
You possess similar DNA to the ones who resisted and defended your homelands to ensure your feet could still first touch the ground on those same lands.
Your existence is the living manifestation of hundreds of thousands of prayers from matriarchs and kokums.

You are a conduit of your ascendant’s devotion, rage, and commitment to the cause – carry yourself as such.

You have the potential to grow nations and embed liberation to those who will exist hundreds of years from now.

You have a fierce strength that can provide you all the tools necessary to commit to a healthy lifestyle as long as you look for the right guidance.
You have the force to disassemble and obliterate white male dominance with the fierceness in your smile and fearlessness in your words.

You are not a victim.

You are not a survivor.

You are the truth.
You are the truth of resurgence, self-liberation, and an undeniable, wildly unapologetic, deep self-love as you aid in the restoration of ourselves from colonial systems into the true nehiyaw, anishinaabe peoples we are in the systems that continuously provides sustenance to ourselves and our livelihoods

You are a defender of the land, a protector of the waters, and a combatant against colonialism. 

You are love.

You are sacrifice.
You are beautiful brown skin.
You are our resurgence.

You are our resistance.
You are the most feared weapon against a white privileged male, and all you have to do is breathe.

You are our heroes.

I love you.

We love you.

The land. Loves you.

To the young brown skinned indigenistas, warrioristas, rebels, truthseekers/truthleaders, and rule breakers,

If you find yourself battling in colonial systems, becoming sick, filled with anxiety, and on the brink of mental collapse, remember- no one can take on a system, change a system, or dismantle systemic values steeped in oppression, misogyny and colonialism if that is what that system was founded on, and if that is how that system is maintained.

Instead, 

Breathe. Rest. Eat. Take care of yourself first. You are important. You are deserving. 

And most importantly, re-energize yourself by practicing sovereignty over your colonially-resistant body by saying “no” and teaching that same word to your children, nieces, or nephews- for it is a word of decolonial resistance, a word to be known as a renegade against colonialism, a word that your skin and tongue will become best friends with- all in the name of loving yourself and loving your people.

To all the brown skinned revolutionaries with red lipstick or fire cracker eyes-

You are the human manifesto of the old ones prayers. 

To the cinnamon-skinned compañeras of the cause,
Nourish, strengthen and love your beautiful, strong indigenous body and nourish, strengthen and love beautiful and strong indigenous systems. 

Your life is as important as the livelihood of the land and as the lives of the old ones before you.

Stay strong. 

Stay beautiful.

 Stay proud

of your brown skin. 
Photo by: Melanie Cervantes